Monday, May 15, 2006

chiangrai 2005 - 01 SIN-BKK-CEI

itinerary & pictorial overview


[111205] Singapore - Bangkok - Chiangrai, with two bags of old clothes, 4 capteh, 2 small boxes of crayons, a stack of A4-size rough paper, a sheet of shiny star-shaped stickers, & STB booklets & one issue of e URA Skyline newsletter with plenty of colourful photos of Singapore's landscape & food.

right outside e departure gate in Changi was a little garden showcasing several different species of bamboo, a reminder of our rush to complete e write-up on e importance of bamboo in e lives of hilltribes (ceilings, flooring, walls & balcony platforms of houses, fences, gates & cattle pens, fish traps, drinking cups, altars & symbols, food, etc) for e library@orchard exhibition....nice start =)


[1] Don Muang domestic terminal [2] 60-70 baht for e can, how much for e drink? [3] Bangkok-Chiangrai One-Two-GO boarding pass - will e plane fly at e same angle as e printing? [4] flight oh3-eck4-waan1-sake1-tuu1 OX162 on a tiny little MD-82 that has a detachable butt at 'C' [5] cleaner & brighter than any international airline that e cat has travelled on before, & no one can walk through once cabin crew seats are folded out to occupy e aisle [6] how to emerge from e rectum of a MD-82 [7] beautiful scenery unfolding as e endless patchwork of rice fields in e Central Plains give way to e mountain ranges of e north [8] e reason behind e perpetual haze that cloaks most of Thailand every cool & dry season [9] rolling up e red carpet after a military welcome (not meant for us) at Chiangrai International Airport

in Don Muang, a Caucasian man in uniform sat down to wait together with all e passengers in e boarding area. turned out to be e pilot....who didn't seem to know where he was flying to....

in e middle of e flight, e plane started to circle above e mountains (probably Nan or Phrae province) as if preparing to land, with e late afternoon sun & mountains of Laos (east) alternating at least 4 times between e windows on e left & e right of e cabin. after 720++ degrees e cat decided to check its compass to confirm that it wasn't imagining things....


wonder if this is how it feels like to fly in Laos, where most airports have no radar & pilots fly by sight, turning back if e weather turns foul & visibility drops....

& then we suddenly broke out of e roundabout & continued heading north towards Chiangrai. about 40-50 min later e plane started to circle again, & e familiar Mae Nam Kok (river) & two lakes of e Chiangrai Rajabhat University campus came into view as we lost altitude, erasing all doubt as to whether e plane was really going to land this time.

while paying for e 200 baht (fixed price) taxi coupon for e ride into town, e counter staff suddenly froze in mid-transaction & stood up as silence fell across e entire airport....& we all instinctively turned around to face e King's portrait as e familiar 'so-do-mi-so-so-la-so-fa-la-so....' strains of e national anthem played over e airport terminal speakers (& radio & TV sets across e kingdom)....this is 18:00PM in Thailand =)

& then it was over, & soldiers picked up their guns, security personnel passed e bags they had held aside through e X-ray scanners, arriving passengers started to file out of e transit area again, customers wandered back into e shops, people outside e terminal resumed loading their luggage onto vehicles, cars started moving, & life picked up where it had momentarily left off.

e taxi took us through Fang Min (supposedly e poorer area?) into Changrai city, a much faster & less crowded alternative to e Asia Superhighway 1 route. Baan4 Bua1 Guesthouse (879/2 Thanon Jet Yot, Tel: 053-718880 is a quiet place with spotless rooms off e main street, a short walk away from e night bazaar & bus station. had noticed e sign to this place a year ago when e expedition team was staying in e nearby Wang Come Hotel.

e Englishman owner Jim & his Thai wife run e guesthouse in e day, while J, a Thai/English/Mandarin-speaking Chinese guy, helps take care of things after hours. J is a third generation descendant from e Chinese (both civilians & Kuomintang soldiers & their families) who fled e communist takeover & crossed over from Yunnan into Burma, Thailand & Laos, settling in remote mountainous places like Ban Pha Tang near e Thai-Laotian border & Mae Salong (to be visited in a few days time) near e Thai-Burmese border.

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